Proper planning for packaging is not just a clever tongue-twister. It’s serious business that directly affects the bottom line for any company that produces and sells goods. What does it take to plan your packaging the right way?
From the beginning, before you sell a single item, it’s essential to know what kinds of mistakes to avoid, a few of which are rather common. So, right off the bat, you can save yourself some money by not falling for a few of those common traps that some managers fall for.
But there are two other components to the entire planning process that are equally as important as avoiding common errors. First, when you and your team set out to design a product package, you have plenty on your mind. The temptation is to dive right into logo placement, text, barcode concerns, font, ink color, material choices, and all the nitty-gritty decisions that go into the creative part of the chore.
However, the wise way to proceed is to ponder the “big picture” of your product by brainstorming about the different purposes for each of the packages you’ll be designing. That’s right. Even if you sell only one product, it’s necessary to think about more than one package.
Below, we’ll discuss the four purposes of packaging so you will be able to start off on the right foot. Remember, there are some labels, containers, enclosures, and protective packages that consumers never see. You need to consider those questions too.
At this point, the whole question of packaging might seem confusion. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Every merchant has questions, a few misconceptions, and knowledge gaps when they get ready to take the all-important steps that lead to package design. Let’s dig right into the nine factors you should have as headings on your pad. Be ready to note anything that pertains specifically to your product and its package plan.
The “Big 9” Packaging Considerations for Businesses
One reason planning is so important when it comes to packaging is this: if you’re new to selling, it’s far too easy to overlook some of the key considerations that go into packaging selection. Like many other business decisions, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. In fact, there are at least nine topics you and your team should hash out before moving forward with design, acquiring supplies, etc.
The nine considerations are:
- Distribution: Distributors have their own requirements for packaging size and materials. Some won’t handle glass, for example. Others will only accept items within certain dimensions or of particular shapes. The lesson: know your distribution channels, who the specific distribution companies are, and what their own rules are regarding what they’ll agree to handle.
- Legal Requirements: Primarily related to what you write on labels that consumers see, there are addition legal hurdles you might have to clear along the way from production to shelf placement. They include things like use of potentially cancer-causing materials that are outlawed in some U.S. states and foreign countries, products that can’t be sold in some jurisdictions (weapons, ammunition, alcohol, and the like), and dangerous or combustible products. Packaging must clearly label items that fall into these categories.
- Protection During Transport: Every merchant would prefer to have the most durable packaging to protect against transportation jostling, movement, vibration, and the like. But if your shelf-level packaging material is glass, for example, you’ll need to make doubly-sure to use highly protective shipping enclosures.Glass, by the way, is enjoying a sort of renaissance among packaging materials due to its ease of re-use and recycling. Some consumers who avoid single-use plastic wrappers and bags have been gravitating to glass containers.
- Material: Some useful stats are: plastic and paper make up about two-thirds of all packaging materials for reasons of cost and durability. Metal, which is mostly represented by aluminum and steel, accounts for just more than 10 percent of all the packaging materials used worldwide. Glass packaging is another 10 percent, and other materials make up the rest. It’s important to know how prevalent paper, paperboard, and plastic are.Unless you have special factors or a unique product that calls for something besides plastic or paper packaging, at least consider those two as potential materials for your goods.
- Cost-Benefit Tradeoffs: Every merchant has a budget. Unless money is unlimited, you’ll have to arrive at the best cost-benefit point for your packaging. For example, glass might be nice for your company’s micro-brewed beer, but maybe you’d have to raise prices a bit too high to cover the cost of glass bottles. Know what you can and can’t afford.
- Protection During Storage: Some items sit in warehouses for years before they’re sold. Will your products withstand a long inventory life in the packaging you will use? It’s vital to know where, how, and for how long all goods will be stored before sale.
- Shelf Appeal: Does your packaging look good to the prospective buyer? Does it stand out from competitors’ brands? Does it have an artistic, aesthetic appeal? Get this factor right and you’ll be on the way to profitability.
- Shelf Protection: Does your packaging protect the item while it sits on a store shelf, for perhaps up to a year? If it falls from a high shelf, does the packaging protect it? Envision the entire life of your product from the moment it’s produced until it arrives in the consumer’s home.
- User Convenience: Then, after it arrives in a buyer’s home, is the package sturdy enough to continue protecting against falls? And does it include resealing pouches for long storage (for food items particularly)? Finally, does your packaging offer easy-open and easy-close capability for buyers?
Packaging Mistakes To Avoid
Want to save yourself from a decent number of headaches, pitfalls, traps, and missteps? Stop and think before you make a final packaging decision. Here’s a quick cheat-sheet to run though in the form of questions to ask yourself. If you get a yes to any of them, correct the error and move onto the next question.
- “Are we using too much material in the package?” If that’s the case, consider slimming down the bulk and re-working the design so that it is more in scope with the size and shape of the product.
- “Are we using too little material?” Sometimes, in an attempt to cut costs or appear more “eco-friendly” to consumers, merchants don’t use enough packaging to protect the product during shipment or keep it fresh in the consumer’s cupboard.
- “Do consumers have difficulty opening or re-closing our packages?” This is actually a huge source of irritation for your potential customers. Remember some of those awful cereal boxes of the 1960s and 70s? All it takes is one bad experience with a package and people will say “bye bye” fast.
- “Do our labels clearly explain what’s in the package?” Don’t be guilty of making shoppers “guess what’s in the box.” Use labels to clearly reveal what’s inside and what the product is for. Avoid unhelpful, sparse, misleading, or overly wordy labeling.
The Four Purposes of Packaging
When people hear the words, “product package,” they almost instantly conjure up an image of something like a toothpaste box sitting on a store shelf, a fancy wine bottle, or a cereal box. But, those are only one kind of packaging, namely the “shelf display” variety.
Don’t forget that before that cereal box arrived on the store shelf, it was already packaged in different ways from the minute the little flakes rolled off the assembly line. Here are short summaries about each category of packaging. Which ones will your company need?
- Shipping and Transport: Think giant shipping cartons, perhaps steel drums, huge wooden crates, and similar shipping-cargo types of packages. Some sellers rent these from shippers or simply pay a fee to the shipper for protective cargo enclosures. Know what kinds of shipping and transport packages will be used for your products.
- Storage and Inventory: This category includes things like stackable boxes or large cartons that sit in your (or a rented) inventory warehouse. These are the larger boxes that hold the smaller items destined for shelves, like individual cereal boxes.
- Shelf Display: This category is what we usually envision when we hear the word “packaging.” It’s what consumers see when they shop. Common examples are large and small boxes that hold nail polish, chocolate bars, frozen dinners, and similar on-shelf items.
- Home Use: Often overlooked, home-use packaging can be a modified version of the shelf package. For instance, consumers often tear off the entire top of a box of cereal for easy access, placing a “bag clip” on the inner plastic enclosure that holds the physical cereal. It’s helpful to know how your buyers might modify or tear down a package after they buy it.
Get Help With “Packaging Planning”
After you consider all the components of your product’s packaging needs, remember to bring all the notes, questions, and other concerns with you when you sit down with a packaging professional and get ready to turn those plans into reality.
At Mid-Atlantic Packaging, our teams work with you to come up with the most suitable packaging materials and design for your unique goods. Give us a call whenever you have questions or want to set up a no-cost consultation. Our toll-free number is 800-284-1332. And feel free to check out our website for more information.